Wholesale inflation rises to 0.53% in March

Vegetable prices pushed producers’ inflation, based on Wholesale Price Index (WPI), to 0.53 per cent in March as against 0.2 per cent in February, data released by Commerce & Industry Ministry on Monday showed. This is in contrast to retail inflation, based on Consumer Price Index (CPI), which slipped to 4.85 per cent in March as against 5.1 per cent of February.

Food inflation moved up marginally to 6.88 per cent in March from 5.42 per cent in the same month a year ago, data showed. Inflation in vegetables was 19.52 per cent, up from (-) 2.39 per cent in the same month a year ago. WPI for potato witnessed a jump of 52.96 per cent against a deflation of 25.59 per cent, while for onion 56.99 per cent as compared to (-) 36.83 per cent in March 2023.

The data showed that inflation in the crude petroleum segment rose by 10.26 per cent in March this year against a deflation of 23.53 per cent in March 2023 due to hardening of crude prices globally.

WPI was in the negative zone from April to October and had turned positive in November at 0.26 per cent. Commenting on latest number, Rajni Sinha, Chief Economist with CARE said that WPI has been positive. While both fuel and power and manufactured product categories continued in deflation, an uptick in food price inflation led to a higher overall print.

With the fading of a supportive base, it is anticipated that the WPI inflation will edge up in the upcoming months. The recent increase in global commodity prices, particularly driven by higher Brent crude prices and a rise in industrial metal prices, is expected to add to upward pressures on WPI. However, it’s worth noting that expectations of a normal monsoon with waning El Nino conditions and a recovery in rabi sowing painting a positive outlook for agricultural production and, consequently, food inflation.

“This is anticipated to cushion the WPI figures to a certain extent. Nonetheless, geopolitical tensions in the Middle East remain significant variables to monitor closely. We expect WPI inflation to average around 3 per cent in FY25,” she said.

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